The key developments to watch for as F1’s car launch season begins today

Formula 1

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While the buzz in Formula 1 over the past few days has been all about blockbuster driver moves and arguments over an 11th team, preparations for the new season will take centre stage over the coming weeks, beginning today.

Although all teams retain the same driver line-ups as last year for the new season, there is enough different about the upcoming season to avoid it feeling like a carbon copy of 2023.

Entering the third season of F1’s ground effect technical regulations, the rules remain largely static for the new year. Fans who are anticipating any bold, inventive new approaches to the rules to help generate more downforce might well find themselves disappointed as it’s more likely the focus will be on evolution, not revolution. However, that does not mean that there may not be some vastly different looking cars this season from 2023.

After Red Bull produced the most successful F1 car ever with the RB19 last year, there is no longer any debate over which aerodynamic approach conceptualised by the world champions, Mercedes or Ferrari is the superior one. Almost a year ago, Mercedes admitted that they would discard their ‘zero sidepod’ concept and adopt a more Red Bull-esque approach – meaning the most obvious element to look out for in the launch season is just how many RB19 clones teams will unveil over the next fortnight.

Nico Hulkenberg, Haas, Yas Marina, 2023
The team which finished last will reveal their new car first
Conveniently, teams are scheduled to reveal their cars largely in reverse-championship order from last year. Tenth-placed Haas will show off their 2024 challenger today, first of all the teams, with world champions Red Bull set to be the final team to do so on February 15th.

Out of the nine teams chasing Red Bull, there are two designs that will be perhaps the most intriguing to see. The first, naturally, being Mercedes and whether they have followed Red Bull’s approach of the last two seasons with the RB19. As the final Mercedes that Lewis Hamilton will likely race in Formula 1, it becomes all the more paramount that the team produces a winning car for their most successful ever driver after two win-less years.

But the other team to look out for is not a front-running team, but rather Red Bull’s second team: RB. Former AlphaTauri, the team has received a new, commercially-friendly name and a new team principal for 2024, but is also taking on a completely different philosophy for this new era too. No longer intended as a junior team, RB are now expected to compete as a force of their own. How much the team’s car emulates the one of their bigger sibling’s from last year – or is a complete departure from it – remains to be seen.

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RB will likely have a completely new look for the upcoming season, as will Sauber, who have bid farewell to Alfa Romeo and have adopted the identity of title sponsors Stake, the gambling company. The team have teased a black and neon-green colour scheme for their new branding, which will surely make them the most drastically different looking team on the grid for this season.

McLaren 2024 F1 livery - front
McLaren has already presented its new livery for 2024
As so often in modern times, do not expect to necessarily see teams unveiling their actual cars during their launch events. It’s become increasingly common in recent seasons for teams to just show off their shiny new liveries during their events and only finally break covers on their cars when they roll out for their first runs on one of the filming days allowed under the current regulations.

Currently, you can expect to see the Haas VF23, the Sauber C44, Aston Martin AMR24, Ferrari SF-24, McLaren MCL38 and the Mercedes W15 all revealed during their scheduled launch events. Williams, Alpine, RB and Red Bull are currently expected to just show off new liveries during their respective launch events.

With no driver line-up changes, expect there to be a much greater focus on technical personnel by teams and drivers as they preview the upcoming season. It’s been an especially volatile few years for the technical talent market when it comes to designers, technical directors and other key staff behind car development.

This has been spurred by the massive power unit regulation changes for 2026, with Red Bull hiring for its new powertrain division, Aston Martin recruiting to expand its team significantly and some key personnel moves between Mercedes and Ferrari and even McLaren and some of its other rivals on the grid. Some major technical staff changes that have occurred in the last two years will be seeing their impact for the first time with these new cars, meaning the focus will be as much on them as it will be their drivers.

Finally, it’s easy to get caught up in the pre-season hype of hoping that a certain team has a strong season ahead of them or that the all-conquering champions may be vulnerable heading into a new season. But in the modern budget cap era in which the ten teams were closer than ever before last season – even in spite of Red Bull’s dominance – there will once again be no way to tell how good or bad each team’s approach to the new season will be until the first weekend of the season rolls around in Bahrain at the end of the month. But perhaps we can glean a few clues about their expected performance from what they tell us before the real action begins.

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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3 comments on “The key developments to watch for as F1’s car launch season begins today”

  1. With no driver line-up changes, there will still be a large grey individual, with a trunk, present at the Ferrari and Mercedes launches. I hope the line of questioning for their drivers and bosses exceeds the usual standard at this sort of event.

  2. Coventry Climax
    2nd February 2024, 12:30

    So the developments to watch out for are nonexistent, and, like the last paragraph tells us, we’ll have to wait for the first competitive get together to get a first glimpse of who does well and who disappoints. Nothing new.
    You needed a lot of words and a luring headline to tell us ‘Move on folks, nothing to see here’.

    1. Nailed it. Snooze time for a another month

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